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Engineering LibreTexts

18.1: Background

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  • One of the resources impacted by current climate changes is water. In particular, streams and their watersheds will likely change dramatically as regional climate (largely precipitation and temperature) changes in predicted ways. This activity is designed to help you investigate what those impacts might be for selected watershed. To prepare you to do this here are some key concepts.

    Watershed – A defined area that acts like a funnel to capture precipitation and direct it downhill into the ocean or a landlocked lake. Watersheds consist of their upper reaches; there rain or snowmelt drains into small streams that then merge to form even larger streams before joining in the lower reaches to form rivers that course over the floor of a central valley.

    Stream gauge station – A measuring station located on a strategic location on a stream to determine stream velocity and discharge (the amount of water passing through the stream at that spot over a given time period).

    Hydrograph – A graph showing discharge as a function of time. In the following activities you’ll be looking at graphs showing monthly discharge averaged over multiple years. The graphs will do this both for historical records and for currently projected climate changes.

    Water resources – Water from streams and aquifers (underground water) available for irrigation, manufacturing, and consumption. One of the tricks about managing water resources is providing for these needs while ensuring that enough water remains in a watershed to provide for the needs of its natural inhabitants (e.g. plants and animals).

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